Acceptable Sacrifice

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire? In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure” (Hebrews 10:5,6).
It is easy for people who live in so-called “Christian” cultures to assume that animal sacrifice is an obsolete custom, long vanished from the earth. Many Americans and Western Europeans have never seen an altar, or animals prepared for burnt offerings.
In other parts of the world, however, such sacrifices are still very much a part of life. Eid, the second most sacred festival of the Islamic calendar, was celebrated this year in early February. It lasts several days, and is commemorated with various rituals, but one of the most important of these is the day of “Corbani” ? on which every pious Muslim offers an animal sacrifice. The days before Eid are noted for the huge numbers of bulls and goats offered for sale. On the afternoon of Corbani one sees trucks and rickshaw vans piled high with skins of the slaughtered animals being taken to the tanneries. The sacrifices themselves provide food for the worshipper and for the poor to whom some of the meat is given.
Unfortunately, the absence of animal sacrifice from Western culture is sometimes mistakenly taken to mean that no sacrifices are given or expected in Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though our New Testament affirms that God is no longer worshipped through offerings given on fires, it is also full of requirements for other forms of sacrifice. These include the “living sacrifice” of our own bodies (Romans 12:1), the “sacrifice of praise” as we give thanks to God (Heb. 13:15), and the self-sacrifice which precedes our following Jesus (Matthew 16:24).
The fact that these sacrifices are not accompanied by bloodshed, or fire, or smoke, or ash, in no sense lessens their reality or their importance. The fact is that “the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin” or otherwise appease God (Hebrews 10:4). Nothing which humans do can remove the guilt or the consequences of our sin. Only God can do that, through the satisfaction of his justice provided by the death of his son, Jesus. Our sacrifices, whatever their nature, earn us nothing. The genuine sacrifices of self-denial and worship do glorify God, however. They also indicate our faith in and commitment to God through Jesus. And there-in lies their value. It is not what we do to impress or obligate God. It is what we do that reveals our genuine response of faith and trust in Jesus, and our submission to his will.
This is why the only real sacrifice that can be offered today is sacrifice of self. We die to self, and to sin. We die with Christ and through Christ. And in so doing we take his ultimate sacrifice for ourselves and receive its benefits. We renounce any claim to goodness of our own and rest all our hope in the goodness God gives us through the sacrifice he made for us. That is all the goodness that will ever be required and far more than we could otherwise attain.

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